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School of Environment, Education and Development

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BSc Geography

Study a course tailored to you at the university ranked fourth in the UK for Geography (Guardian University Guide).

BSc Geography

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Principles, Perspectives and Practice

Unit code MGDI31101
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Global Development Institute
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Development is a fundamentally contested subject. The objectives of development, the policies suited to achieve development and the role for different actors are all subject to debate by economists, sociologists, anthropologist and political scientists. This course will examine recent ideas about development including the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs have set the development agenda for the next 15 years, prioritising the eradication of extreme poverty and environmentally, socially and economically sustainable development.

The course comprises three main parts: an overview of the competing conceptualisations of development, including perspectives on gender and sustainability; a critical examination of some of the main drivers and actors in development; and an introduction to some of the key themes in contemporary development studies.


  • ·         to provide an introduction to different theoretical perspectives of development and the competing meanings of ‘development’;

    ·         to provide a critical understanding of the social, economic and political dimensions of development approaches;

    ·         to extend students’ understandings of development theories through the exploration of key development policy issues; and

    ·         to provide a critique of dominant development frameworks and an analysis of the different ways in which development concepts are defined, applied and prioritized.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, you should be able to:

·         Demonstrate a critical understanding of the theoretical and conceptual foundations of development;

·         Be able to apply this conceptual understanding in the analysis of particular topics in international development.

·         Recognise and understand the relationship between development theory and contemporary development practice in a number of key thematic areas; and

·         Demonstrate the ability to critically analyse published academic and non-academic literature on international development and present their arguments coherently both through written assignments and oral presentation.


Week 1: The ideas of development: of what, for whom, by whom?

Week 2: Contrasting theories of development

Week 3: Gender and development

Week 4: Unsustainable development: environment and development

Week 5: The state, governance and the politics of development

Week 6: Study Week, no classes

Week 7: Aid and development

Week 8: Globalisation and technology

Week 9: Study Week, no classes

Week 10: Global inequality

Week 11: Agriculture and rural development

Week 12: Revision

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered via interactive two hour lecture sessions, supported by weekly one hour seminars that include a variety of individual and group activities. Some of the lecture sessions will be a guest lecture from specialists in the topics covered (Bina Agarwal, Tom Lavers).  These guest lectures will be introduced by the course convenor, who will stay in class and use the second half of the lecture slot to discuss the broader implications of the topic covered, linking it to the aims and objectives of the course unit. 

Reading prior to lectures and completion of preparatory work for the seminars is compulsory.

The one-hour seminar sessions will link to the material covered in the lectures and illustrate their application and will employ the following methods:

-       Case study

-       Policy analysis

-       Debate

The course is supported by a dedicated Blackboard site. This offers a variety of resources including a repository of the lecture notes used in class, a course syllabus, other types of course-specific materials as well as a discussion forum.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • Critical thinking, reflection and self-awareness
  • Taking responsibility for self-directed learning
  • Inter-personal and group learning skills
  • Information handling skills, utilising materials from a variety of sources
  • An ability to assess the merits of contrasting theories, explanations and their policy and development implications


Assessment methods

A 2,500 word coursework essay to be submitted in November 2017 (40%) and a two hour unseen examination in January 2018 with essay-style questions (60%).


Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

·         extensive verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures and seminars;

·         verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours;

·         written feedback on the coursework assignment;

·         verbal feedback on performance through personal tutorials;

·         written feedback on exam assessment.

Recommended reading

Acemoglu, D. and Robinson, J.A. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty. Crown: New York.

Chari, S. and Corbridge, S., 2008. The Development Reader. London: Routledge.

Desai, V. and Potter, R. (ed.) 2002 The Companion to Development Studies, Arnold, London

Easterly, W. 2001. The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics,MIT Press

Easterly, W. 2006. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, New York: Penguin

Fisman, R. and Golden, M.A. 2017. Corruption: What Everyone Needs to Know. Oxford

Gough, I. and McGregor, J.A., eds., 2007. Wellbeing in Developing Countries: From Theory to Research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Kingsbury, D., Remenyi, J., McKay, J. and Hunt, J. (eds) 2004 Key issues in Development, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Kothari, U. and Minogue, M. (ed.) 2001 Development Theory and Practice: Critical Perspectives, Palgrave, Basingstoke

Lawson, V. 2007: Making development geography. London: Hodder Arnold.

Momsen, J., 2009. Gender and Development. London: Routledge.

Moyo, D. 2010. Dead Aid, Penguin, London

Peet, Richard and Elaine Hartwick (2009) Theories of Development: Contentions, Arguments, Alternatives, Guildford Press, New York and London

Potter, R. et al. 2012: Key Concepts in Development Geography. London: Sage.

Power, M. 2003: Rethinking Development Geographies. London: Routledge.

Sachs, W. (ed) 2010: The Development Dictionary: a guide to knowledge as power. 2nd Edition. Zed Books.

Sen, A. 1999. Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Stiglitz, J.E., Sen, A. and Fitoussi, J-P. 2010. Mismeasuring our Lives: Why GDP doesn’ add up. New Press: New York

Thirlwall, A.P. and Pachecho-López, P. 2017. Economics of Development. Palgrave

UNDP, various years: Human Development Reports, New York: UNDP

UNRISD, 2005. Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World. Geneva: UNRISD.

UNRISD, 2010. UNRISD Flagship Report 2010 Combating Poverty and Inequality: Structural change, social policy and politics. Geneva: UNRISD.

World Bank (ed.) various years: World Development Report. Washington: World Bank.

World Bank (2016a) Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2016: Taking on Inequality. World Bank

World Bank (2016b) Digital Dividends. World Bank



Key Journals

Development and Change

Environment and Planning


Journal of Development Studies

Journal of International Development

Third World Quarterly

World Development

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 20
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 168

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gindo Tampubolon Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Lecture: TBC

Seminar: TBC

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